Cereals 2009: Arable sector prospects probed in HSBC forums

HSBC, the principal sponsor of Cereals 2009, is hosting two forums on each day of the event (10-11 June) examining prospects for the arable sector in these tough economic times. Here’s a taste of what’s on offer

The recession has claimed its victims, but thankfully relatively few have been in the UK arable sector. In the highly acclaimed HSBC Farmer Forums, NFU president Peter Kendall and HSBC Bank’s senior economist Mark Berrisford-Smith will highlight where they think the clouds lurk and the silver linings lie in these challenging times. The forums are free to all Cereals visitors.

peter Kendal 2 
Peter Kendall – challenging DEFRA to promote competitiveness.

Mr Kendall is presenting his view on the importance of arable sector’s place in the overall British economy, not only in terms of domestic production and employment, but also in the value of exports now that exchange rates make them more attractive.

“I will be challenging DEFRA to promote the competitiveness of the arable sector and to bear down on regulation with the same determination that Peter Mandelson seems to have applied to The Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform,” he explains.

“This is at a time when, according to John Beddington [the government’s chief scientist], we face a perfect storm by 2030 of increasing food production by 50% against a backdrop of water shortages, extreme weather events caused by climate change and an ever-increasing demand for energy from the land-based sector.”

He adds that despite the highs and lows of the past 18 months he remains optimistic for the future of UK arable farming and the vital role it will play in the UK economy.

Peter Kendall will present his paper The UK Cereals Industry – A Vital Part of Our Economy on 10 and 11 June on the HSBC stand at 10am.

Mark Berrisford 
Farming faces reduced support, warns Mark Berrisford-Smith.


Mr Berrisford-Smith is renowned for his pragmatic and insightful economic commentary and his forum is set to reflect that.

“The rest of the economy is in the worst recession since the 1980s, possibly longer,” he says. “However, farmers are doing reasonably well; farm income figures show no sign of recession and the euro exchange rate has made British farmers more competitive.”

But he will debate whether this position can last given the potential impact of developments in the global economy on the future course of exchange rates. “The position of sterling versus the euro seems to have stabilised, but where it will go from here is highly uncertain given that there are a number of factors which could move the rate in either direction,” he adds. “One of these factors is that despite the deep recession, Britain has not done as badly as the euro area so the recession here is unlikely to be as deep or as long.”

He will also issue a stark warning about how government might view agriculture for the next few years. “Having borrowed so much to support the economy the government’s first priority will be to get the public finances back into some sort of order. From this I can only surmise that the appetite to throw large amounts of public money at farmers will be highly restricted; agriculture will be seen very much as a secondary priority.

“The government, of whatever political party, will be actively looking at ways of reducing public spending. This may well involve a root-and-branch reform, with tough decisions being made about what the public sector does and does not do.” With many other EU members likely to find themselves in a similar position, the next round of CAP reforms could well see less money being channelled towards agriculture.

Mr Berrisford-Smith will present his paper UK Agriculture: gain without pain! at 11am on the HSBC stand on 10 June and Micheal Summers, HSBC regional agriculture manager, will present the same paper on 11 June.

See more